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A Jolly Good Show, but the Wrong Side of the Pond

Sen. Chuck Schumer, aspiring to the House of Commons.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, aspiring to the House of Commons. (C-span2 Via Associated Press)

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Schumer, in announcing his no-confidence plan last month, had seen "a very good chance" that he would get the 60 votes needed to succeed. But Senate Republicans, though disinclined to defend Gonzales, felt comfortable questioning the propriety of a no-confidence vote and attacked Schumer's motives because he runs the Senate Democrats' political campaign.

"I can't understand why it isn't a conflict of interest," argued Mitch McConnell (Ky.), the Senate Republican leader. Lott asked whether "we should be calling for a vote of no confidence in the Senate."

Even Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who supported Schumer's proposal, acknowledged the widely held view that "our form of government does not have a no-confidence vote."

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), evidently inspired by the Anglophilic proceedings, began with the Bard. "To paraphrase Shakespeare, whether this debate amounts to sound and fury, it signifies nothing," he said, before turning to ancient Rome. "The Senate should not even consider such a resolution, evoking the image of Caesar listening to the chants of the crowd before a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down."

Hatch provided the almost empty chamber with a brief civics lesson. "This is not a parliament," he explained. "In our presidential system of government, the separation of powers means that the chief executive is elected separately from the legislature, and Cabinet officials, such as the attorney general, serve at the pleasure of the president."

Schumer stood at his back-row desk to challenge the monarchists. "It is a rare measure, I know," he said. "It is one with few precedents, but it is called for today because the dire situation at the Justice Department is also without precedent."

Repeatedly, Schumer tossed out words such as "universal" and "sacred" and "highest calling" as he condemned the "Gonzales regime."

"It is politics to put blind loyalty to a political leader over the sacred, century-after-century tradition of rule of law," he said.

Fifty-two senators joined the Lord Protector in defense of the sacred rule of law -- seven short of the number needed to behead, figuratively anyway, the monarch.


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